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Officials' charge: Teach students electrical safety

Lecanto Primary School third-graders get a lesson on the dangers of electricity and power lines from Sumter Electric Cooperative employees.

By PAULETTE LASH RITCHIE

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2000


LECANTO -- When the Lecanto Primary School third-graders went into their cafeteria one morning last week they found an electrified little neighborhood sitting on a table. They were greeted by Sumter Electric Cooperative's manager of safety Evan Todd and customer service supervisor Dale Nichols.

The two men have been touring schools in the SECO service areas to teach students about electrical safety. Nichols says he has been involved with teaching safety to children for the 14 years he has been with the company, but this is the first year they've had the display.

It is a real attention-getter for children, and it kept the attention of the students who saw it last week.

The display was a small reproduction of a transmission tower, an electrical substation, a house with an antenna on it, a truck with a boom, a car, a boat with a mast, a cat and a kite.

It was complete with power lines and little people and full of lessons for the children: Don't climb transmission towers. It is easy to touch a power line. Stay away from trucks with backhoes at construction sites or trucks with booms. The backhoe or boom might touch an underground or overhead wire.

Be aware of overhead wires near your home. Don't hit one with a pool skimmer and warn parents about damaged antennas that may fall on wires. Don't open transformer boxes and don't attempt to get your cat out of a tree or off the equipment on power poles.

If you're flying a kite, let go of it if it goes over a power line.

"That's very dangerous," said Todd, "to fly kites around power lines." And look for power lines before climbing trees.

If you are in a car and a power line falls on it, stay in the car until the power line is deactivated. If the car is on fire, though, and you have to exit the car, Todd suggests jumping out on both feet and hopping away. You want to avoid having continuous contact with the ground in the vicinity of the downed wire.

And if you see a downed wire, look around for metal fences. You shouldn't touch those either.

Throughout the safety talk, Todd kept the children's attention by illustrating each scenario. The display was wired and electrified to show the consequences of each wrong choice or mistake. The little people in the display buzzed and lit up when they made a wrong move and were jolted with power.

The half-hour show was just long enough to get the point across and lively enough to keep the children interested. Todd and Nicholas hope to see 1,000 children in the next six weeks and repeat the presentation each year to the same grade level.

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